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Open Anthro Vol 5-2 Music - Anthropology - Life



Open Anthropology, anthropology, music, Musical Instruments, Musical and Theatrical Productions, music anthropology


The Editors’ Note: Music – Anthropology – Life
Jason Antrosio, Department of Anthropology, Hartwick College
Sallie Han, Department of Anthropology, SUNY Oneonta

The study of music is one of anthropology’s most daunting challenges. Across cultures and time, music intertwines with human life and meaning. Yet that meaning inheres in the music, in its specific embodied performance. Even with the advent of recording devices, it is impossible to capture the context of music, and exceedingly difficult to translate. Compounded with anthropology’s customary reliance on verbal explanations and need to produce a written account, the difficulties of transmitting music as human feeling seem insurmountable.

Yet it is perhaps those very difficulties and challenges which lead to such fascinating efforts in the articles collected for this issue of Open Anthropology. The issue brings together a wide diversity of themes and authors. Many of the authors are also music practitioners. Many spend as much or more time outside the academy, and often outside of anthropology departments. The breadth of the offerings in the collection of American Anthropological Association journals is a testimony to an inherently multidisciplinary and vibrant field.

The first two pieces in this collection are a dialogue between what has become a classic approach and a later critique. Participatory Discrepancies and the Power of Music by Charles Keil appeared three decades ago in Cultural Anthropology (1987). Keil’s article built on his even earlier work from 1966, Motion and Feeling through Music in the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. This ongoing project has been an inspiration for anthropologists, ethnomusicologists, and a wide circle of participants. Keil begins his article provocatively: “The power of music is in its participatory discrepancies, and these are basically of two kinds: processual and textural. Music, to be personally involving and socially valuable, must be ‘out of time’ and ‘out of tune’” (275).


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